Governor defends Amendment 3, but open to civil union discussions

- SALT LAKE CITY, (ABC 4 Utah) – Governor Gary Herbert is defending the fight to protect traditional marriage in the state of Utah, but he did say he's open to discussions on civil unions and an anti discrimination bill.

Utah's ban on same-sex marriage took up the majority of time at Herbert's monthly exchange with the media on Thursday.

The governor admits, given the new twists and turns it may be time to reconsider alternatives, like civil unions.

"It's again an opportunity to reflect and review and so if there are other ways to get from here to there that can be the common ground approach to find the proverbial win/win, let's take a look at it," said Herbert.

The governor also touched on the anti discrimination bill that will be introduced again this year.

He says he supports anti discrimination laws at the city level across the state, but when it comes to statewide protections for the LGBT community at work and in housing it depends on what is in the proposal.

What is clear is the governor's resolve to fight Judge Shelby's ruling on Amendment 3.

"We will defend the law that is on the books, we do recognize as the will of the people. In fact, I’ve taken the oath of office to do that very thing," said Herbert.

The governor even called out elected officials in Virginia and California where same-sex marriage bans were passed, but not enforced.

"We have elected officials picking and choosing what laws they are going to enforce that have been given to them by the people. I think that's wrong, that's dangerous, it's the next step to dictatorship," said Herbert.

As the governor focuses on what he believes is his obligation, others are taking aim at the man selected to lead Utah's case through the courts.

This week, Above The Law, an industry blog published an email it says was sent from Gene Schaerr to his colleagues regarding his departure from the firm.

In the email he says "I have accepted that position so that I can fulfill what I have come to see as a religious and family duty: defending the constitutionality of traditional marriage in the state where my church is headquartered and where most of my family resides."

Fred Sainz, with the Human Rights Campaign says it's a clear violation of the separation between church and state.

"When attorney's take an oath they separate their personal religious beliefs from the legal principals they are going to uphold, those being that are found in the U.S. Constitution and it is apparent here that Mr. Schaerr is willing to co-mingle the two," said Sainz.

The governor says it's not about motivation, it's about getting results for the people of Utah.

"The question we should ask is did we hire a good attorney? I don't care what the motivation is," said Herbert.

Schaerr did agree to cap his fee for the case, saving the state some money on the original $2,000,000 estimate.

The governor says it will cost $300,000 to get the case through the district court.

Calls to the Attorney Generals Office and Schaerr for comment were not returned.

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